Cape Fear – tape 1466

After the end of an episode of The Second Heimat: A New Generation, there’s a news report about US bombings in Baghdad following an alleged failed assassination attempt on former President Bush. There’s actually two reports, one before the film, then one afterwards, read by Sally Lawrence.

Then, the original Cape Fear, which I’ve never seen. I didn’t much like the Scorsese remake.

Gregory Peck is the lawyer, and Robert Mitchum is Max Cady, the man who went to prison, but blames Peck for not mounting a proper defence.

“You’re ten minutes late” says Peck’s daughter. “It’s a mistake to teach women how to tell time, they always use it against you.” Ho ho ho, you suave old sexist you.

Cady acts in a generally threatening way to Peck, but nothing that’s actually arrestable. The police hassle him, but he gets a lawyer to charge harrassment.

Martin Balsam plays Peck’s boss.

Martin Balsam and Gregory Peck

Telly Savalas plays the PI hired to look after Peck and his family.

Telly Savalas

Cady viciously attacks a woman, but she’s so scared she won’t testify against him. Then he scares his daughter so that she runs into traffic.

The daughter in this version is played a lot younger than in Scorsese’s remake, and Cady’s threat to rape her is what pushes Peck to have some thugs beat him up. Which then sets in motion Peck’s dismissal from the state bar, and Peck’s plan to lure Cady to the boat on the river at Cape Fear, where, presumably, he can kill him in self defence.

Lying in wait

In the Scorsese remake, Nick Nolte was in some way partially guilty – he suppressed evidence that might have acquitted Cady, because he knew he was guilty. In this version there’s no such implication. Peck was a witness, and told the truth. In some ways, this makes Cady’s actions more chilling. Here he’s a force of nature, in Scorsese’s he’s an angel of vengeance. I know Cady frames his behaviour here as revenge, but the film doesn’t for a second want to suggest that revenge is justified here. So it is all about the innocent man, and how far he will go to protect himself and his family.

The end of this version feels more suspenseful that the remake, mainly because it doesn’t descend into grand guignol quite so much. But the resolution of the plot by a half hearted fistfight is a tad disappointing. And I’d have liked the women to have been a little more assertive

BBC Genome: BBC Two – 27th June 1993 – 00:20

After the movie, there’s the second news report, obviously updated with more detailed information. Then announcer Sally Lawrence wishes us a good night. This being BBC2 there’s no national anthem, as BBC2 is the republican channel.


  1. The part where Mitchum starts beating up Polly Bergen is scarier than anything in the awful Scorsese remake, he looks like he’s getting carried away in his performance, and apparently he was.

    1. Mitchum felt like he was a real person, with all the danger that entails. DeNiro just seemed like Robert DeNiro playing a part – and a charicature at that.

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